/ Features E. Stephen Burnett

How Weaker Brothers May Begin to Boss Christians About Social Justice Issues

Some Christians teach about social justice, based on Scripture, but also based on their personal conflicts.
| Feb 22, 2019 | 2 comments | Series:

Yesterday I explored how weaker brothers have tended to boss other Christians.1

Series: Weaker Brothers Shouldn’t Boss Christians

  1. Weaker Brothers Shouldn’t Boss Christians about Music, Food, or Fantasy
  2. How Weaker Brothers May Begin to Boss Christians about Social Justice Issues
  3. Weaker Brothers Shouldn’t Boss Christians about Social Justice Work

In so many words, I said weaker brothers ought not do that. That’s because weaker brothers are, you know, weak. They deserve special love and consideration—not authoritative leadership about the thing they struggle with.

Weaker brother bosses have wielded the most authority in these areas:

  • Music. This includes the anti-“rock beat” examples I cited yesterday. Or weaker brothers might insist that certain instruments or music styles be required in/banned from church services.
  • Holidays. Weaker brothers can insist they must celebrate versions of original Jewish holidays (as in Romans 14). Or they may insist that Christians not celebrate newer sacred/secular holidays (such as Christmas).
  • Food. Weaker brothers may try to enforce Old Testament dietary law (real or imagined). Or, in a less “spiritual” version, they might have legitimate (or perceived) food allergies, and insist all others (1) have similar weaknesses, (2) follow the same prescriptions.
  • Popular culture. Weaker brothers may associate evil motives with genres or media devices. They may confuse their own weaknesses or opinions/traditions with biblical “rules” against different kinds of popular culture.

As I said yesterday, I’ve seen less weaker brother bossing about these issues. Maybe I have better friends now. But I’m certain weaker brother bossing still happens. However, I still see plenty of weaker brother bossing around Christian circles. And I want to explore, very carefully, one field in which Christians are doing this all over again.

Weaker brothers are bossing us about social justice issues.

Yes, this is a sensitive area.2

Here, a few specific names and situations do leap to mind. But I’m not thinking mainly of specific individuals. This is more of a ethos, almost an aesthetic, that I think I’ve detected.3

But I think it’s worthwhile to attempt an explanation of what I’m discerning today.

This starts with a very hypothetical story. It presents a possible, typical example of weaker brothers who have grown into social-justice-issues “bosses.”

Birth of a new form of weaker brother boss

Childhood to teen years

  1. Our brother is born in an evangelical Christian family.
  2. This brother grows up evangelical environments, such as churches and schools.
  3. He’s also exposed to a lot of evangelical popular culture, such as Sunday schools, radio dramas, and videos.
  4. As a result, this brother learns a particular form of very church– and explicit-missions-centric faith.
  5. When our brother learns about the extra-church world, he mainly hears about conservative social and political causes.
  6. Our brother hears vaguely about racism, poverty, and other issues. But he perceives his church/family leaders associating these only with anti-Christian and leftist causes.
  7. Our brother remains fairly certain the gospel is true, but (vaguely?) wonders what he might be missing.

Teen years to young adulthood

  1. In later teen and college years, our brother discovers plenty of educational material that he missed before. (This can include church history, Reformation doctrine, or missional viewpoints of human culture.)
  2. Brother gets a spiritual second wind. It may almost feel like a “second blessing.”
  3. This time can renew our brother’s faith. He’s not just “riding on his family’s coattails.” He’s wrestling, making the faith his own.
  4. Brother may also experience the first of several “cage stages.”4 (This term originally referred to a person who accepts Reformed theology and turns obnoxious. People, however, often have cage stages about lots of things.)
  5. During this period of questioning, our brother can’t help wondering: How did I miss all this? Why didn’t I learn it earlier?
  6. Unfortunately, a sense of irritation, or even blame, may now set in. Our brother begins to question his evangelical forebears, including parents and pastors. Why did these people ignore or even reject these truths for so long?
  7. On a doctrinal level, our brother re-evaluates (perceived?) standard evangelical tropes about other ethnic groups, other nations, and people in poverty.
  8. On a personal level, our brother begins to feel empathy with marginalized persons. He might have been marginalized in the past, or is being marginalized in the present. Or he perceives either marginalization.

Adulthood: the new boss wields spiritual authority

  1. If our brother attends an evangelical college or seminary, he gets legit training about preaching, teaching, and leadership.
  2. At such an institution, he gets exposed to many growth opportunities.
  3. But he also gets hit with many frustrations with evangelical power structures and/or just plain humans being human.
  4. Very possibly, he feels increasing detachment and resentment against older evangelicals. Why didn’t those people get it?
  5. Twitter occurs. Our brother can’t help sharing his thoughts aloud. People agree. People disagree. Either way, his thoughts get instant results.
  6. The Trump election occurs. Thinkpieces and blameblogs multiply like radioactive rabbits. Our brother sees even more hypocrisy among older evangelicals. They seem to have switched. They no longer say, “A president’s character matters.” Instead they say (at best), “He’s a scumbag, but he’s our scumbag,” or else say (at worst), “He’s God’s chosen leader like David/Cyrus of old.”
  7. All along, our brother also inherits (without challenging) some impulses from conservative and seeker-friendly Christianity: Thou shalt do whatever thou must to win souls to Christ Jesus. But whereas previous generations enlarged churches, simplified sermons, and invested in professional bands, such Baby Boomer–attracting strategies now seem as retro as hymnbooks and organs. Where now is the new way to attract seekers and show that Christians aren’t like those dullard hypocrites of old? That’s right—social justice issues (SJI).
  8. It all fits: SJI is not doctrinal compromise, but is in fact a plain teaching of Scripture that Christians have missed. If you advocate SJI, you are not like previous politically dominating evangelicals, because this time you’re fighting for people the Church has ignored. And SJI is not just a megachurch trick to attract non-Church to the gospel, because advocating for SJI in fact invites criticism (from within the Church)—right?5
  9. From here, the brother goes forth. He goes forth on social media. Into life. Into churches.
  10. If he’s rising in the leadership ranks, he networks at conferences and evangelical websites.
  11. When he speaks on this, he gets pushback. Rudest, nastiest responses rise to the top. These persuade him he’s on the right course.
  12. By contrast, the more rational, kinder pushback gets lost in the clamor—or he can’t help but fail to hear it among the louder replies.

Next week, I’ll resume this series. Very carefully, and without name-naming and with plenty of speculation, we’ll explore the hazards of SJI weaker brother “bosses.” Then I’ll attempt some suggestions about how stronger Christians can be sensitive to these weaker brothers.

  1. “Weaker brothers” includes sisters because the Greek term adelphoi is inclusive. As I also mentioned yesterday, the phrase weaker brothers comes from Romans 14. Here, the apostle Paul urges Christians to be welcoming and sensitive to concerns of “the one who is weak in faith” (verse 1). This person believes he must celebrate certain religious holidays. See also 1 Corinthians 8–10. Here, Paul refers to “the weak” (1 Cor. 8:9) person who believes she can’t eat meat sacrificed to idols.
  2. Disclaimers for the phrase, “Weaker brothers are bossing us about social justice issues (SJI)”:
    • No, this doesn’t mean all Christians who are concerned about social justice issues (SJI).
    • This also doesn’t mean all Christians who merely behave badly and/or are wrong about SJI.
    • Nope, I don’t imply that any Christian concerned about SJI is motivated by a tragic testimony about their temptations.
    • Plenty of Christians are just as nasty, if not more so, against SJI. They may often conflate “pure religion” (James  with politics.
    • Plenty of Christians wrongly conflate legit SJI with leftist definitions. So they “throw the baby out with the bathwater.”
    • This does not single out Christians who belong to a particular ethnic group or race.
    • This does not mean I advocate “color blindness.” Yes, I know that many Christians mean well by the phrase. No, I don’t think the phrase is useful any more. A Christian who says this may mean, “I don’t care what you look like.” But a minority brother or sister can’t help only hearing, “I don’t care.” In this case, even if the minority family member is (hypothetically) a weaker brother about this phrase, we must follow the apostle Paul and be sensitive and loving!
    • Some Christian leaders are simply too new to the issue that I doubt they’re technically qualified to speak to it. They don’t count as weaker brothers. They’re just weak sources. In my very tentative perception, they are not (yet) qualified to speak on the topic. For instance, David Platt at last year’s Together for the Gospel conference tried to explore some SJI. He confessed he spoke as a “white” individual who had just begun to discern how “white” evangelical institutions can be. However, Platt also confessed he felt inadequate to speak about the topic because he was so new to it. When I listened to his message, I couldn’t help thinking in a compassionate sense, “Well then, do you need to leave the stage?” I have gained a lot more about social justice issues from Christian leaders who have spent much longer wrestling with these issues in ministry. So far, the best leaders on this issue have already proven they can help reconcile, not just general “groups,” but actual humans in actual communities.

    If other disclaimers occur to me later, I’ll add them here.

  3. Previous weaker-brother bosses about music/food/and so on have been more easily discerned years later. So this problem may become a lot more clear in the future.
  4. R. C. Sproul Jr. defines it this way: “’Cage-stage‘ describes an all too common phenomenon wherein a believer comes to embrace the doctrines of grace, and for a time becomes an obnoxious lout in defending the doctrines to all comers, whether they are interested or not.” See “Cage-Stage Calvinism: What Is It and What Causes It?“, Ligonier.org, Aug. 22, 2015.
  5. For now, we’ll dodge the seeming contradiction. I think some Christian SJI “bosses” believe they’re advocating “unpopular” views, solely because some conservative Christians oppose them. But this perception only works if you focus on response from (relatively insular) Christian cultures. Outside these cultures, versions of SJI are all the rage among powerful political leaders, corporate marketing teams, popular culture creatives, and young activists. I’m not necessarily judging here; I only point out that the Christian SJI boss can’t really act as if these views are universally “unpopular.”

Weaker Brothers Shouldn’t Boss Christians about Music, Food, or Fantasy

Why have Christians let people who are most vulnerable to certain sins teach about them to the rest of us?
| Feb 21, 2019 | 2 comments | Series:

When I was a child, Christian weaker brothers1 had authority to boss you about all kinds of things.

By weaker brothers, I mean Christians who, by their own admission, were vulnerable to certain temptations.2

Series: Weaker Brothers Shouldn’t Boss Christians

  1. Weaker Brothers Shouldn’t Boss Christians about Music, Food, or Fantasy
  2. How Weaker Brothers May Begin to Boss Christians about Social Justice Issues
  3. Weaker Brothers Shouldn’t Boss Christians about Social Justice Work

In one case, Christian leaders held up one specific weaker brother boss: a (possibly apocryphal) witch doctor, and/or former African tribal worshiper, who had converted to Christianity. One version of this anecdote was printed in a booklet from a (nastily legalistic) outfit called the “Institute in Basic Life Principles” (IBLP). The booklet’s title: “Ten Scriptural Reasons Why the ‘Rock Beat’ Is Evil in Any Form” (underline in original).

In April 1990, a Christian from Zimbabwe, Africa, arrived for his first visit to the United States. He is a native missionary under the Awana Youth Association. When he turned on a Christian radio station and listened to the music, he was shocked. Here is his report:

“I am very sensitive to the beat in music, because when I was a boy, I played the drums in our village worship rituals. The beat that I played on the drum was to get the demon spirits into the people.

“When I became a Christian, I rejected this kind of beat because I realized how damaging it was.

“When I turned on a Christian radio station in the United States, I was shocked. The same beat that I used to play to call up the evil spirits is in the music I heard on the Christian station.”

Stephen Maphosah, Zimbabwe, Africa34

It wasn’t long before I realized the absurdity of this story:

Hey. Who put the witch doctor in charge of Christian moral practice?

This goes double if you heard, as I did, that the (apocryphal?) witch doctor was actually a new convert to Christianity:

With all due respect, why should new converts be the boss of Christian moral practice?

Scripture, in fact, specifically warns against letting a new convert become a church overseer. Paul says that if we do that, “he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.”5

But what if the witch doctor wasn’t a new convert? What if the account is true?

Then it still makes little sense for Christians to let him become a music boss:

  • By all versions of the account I heard, the witch doctor wasn’t even trying to boss. He only made the observation about the music similarity. And/or a concern that it sounded like rhythms he and his witch-doctor friends used to try to summon spirits. It was someone else who later “weaponized” his words, as if they marked universal concern for all Christians.
  • By the account’s own terms, the witch doctor had his own personal history with similar music. In his past, he had used certain sounds or rhythms alongside sinful behavior. In the present, he couldn’t help making the association. His story doesn’t apply to everyone else.
  • Even if his story did apply to others, this does not overrule the path that God can redeem pagan practices and things—starting with us.
  • The person’s opinions are not the same as revealed Scripture.

But Christians keep letting weaker brothers boss them about things.

Plenty of Christians keep going along with this weird tendency. They keep entrusting “weaker brothers” with unique authority over particular practices. Those relate to music, as we’ve seen. But they also related to things like food and popular culture:

What sorts of foods can we eat or avoid?

Let’s all listen to a person who has terrible food allergies, and/or terrible stories about what happened to her when she consumed a certain thing.

What kinds of fantasy stories can we enjoy or avoid?

Let’s all listen to a person who has a terrible backstory about being drawn into the occult and Satanism.

Are certain types of Christian music acceptable or too worldly?

Let’s all listen to a person who has a terrible backstory about being drawn into the occult and Satanism.

That last one is a particularly bizarre trend. Some Christians, historically, keep deciding to let Satan-worshipers be the best authority on the Devil’s powers and dangers. Sometimes it doesn’t even matter whether the Satan-worshiper has since received the gospel. I have heard Christians cite (apocryphal, anecdotal, or actual) current New Age or pagan teachers as authorities about spiritual warfare.

Shouldn’t we, you know—follow strong Christians instead?

The apostle Paul doesn’t venerate weaker brothers the way some Christians have.

He doesn’t say they’re strong. He says they’re weak. Weak means not strong. It means, “These are the people you should help.” It does not mean, “These are the people who have the inside view, so you should follow whatever standard they must follow.”

In fact, the very truth that Paul speaks openly about weaker brothers means he wants all the church, strong and weak alike, to adopt these categories.

Paul does not want stronger people to meet together and whisper about how legalistic the weaker brothers are. He doesn’t want weaker brothers to gather secretly and whisper about how the others keep compromising with the world. Instead, Paul wants the issues openly discussed. After reading his letters (probably publicly!) to the Roman or Corinthian church, everybody could meet together. They could figure out their strengths and weaknesses.

“Ah yes. I grew up in this particular Athenian cult. I can’t go near market so-and-so without feeling a compulsion to rejoin my old people.”

“Fascinating! I never have that issue. So I suppose if you need anything in that market, I could head out there for you.”

Stronger brothers and sisters have rarely if ever been tempted to sin by particular foods, holidays, popular culture, or more. Or they were once tempted to these sins, but through Scripture study, prayer, and hard holiness work, have achieved victory over those sinful temptations.

Weaker brothers, precisely because they’re weaker, don’t (yet?) have such victory. So they require special care.

By default, Christians should put the stronger believers in positions of authority. Because they’re, you know, stronger.

By default, Christians should not put the weaker brothers in positions of authority. Because they are weaker.

Maybe Christians have made progress in this area. I no longer see a lot of these anecdotes spread about. Whether because of more biblical teaching, or better sharing of information, believers seem more resistant to these weaker brother bosses. At least in the areas of food, holidays, and popular culture. If anything, we’re more vulnerable to acting like we’ve beaten back these gifts’ associated sins, rather than actually achieving this kind of victory, or following stronger Christians who have.

But nowadays, I think there’s one vital area in which weaker brothers are taking over Christian leadership.

Tomorrow, I’ll continue by explaining what area this is. Please pray that I can write with clarity and sensitivity. Because now we really get into thorny territory.

  1. And sisters. As my study Bible is fond of pointing out, the Greek term adelphoi, translated brothers, is a catch-all term that refers to men and women.
  2. The phrase comes from Romans 14. Here, the apostle Paul urges Christians to be welcoming and sensitive to concerns of “the one who is weak in faith” (verse 1). See also 1 Corinthians 8–10. Here, Paul refers to “the weak” (1 Cor. 8:9). Weaker brothers are not following a higher standard of holiness. They are weak precisely because they cannot help associating some behavior with sin—possibly because of their own background.
  3. I’ve copied the wording from this website. However, it credits only “guest article.” It does not give a date and does not mention the original source: the IBLP booklet “Ten Scriptural Reasons Why the ‘Rock Beat’ Is Evil in Any Form.”
  4. One commentator provides another version of the “witch doctor” story on the Recovering Grace website: “Bill (that is, disgraced IBLP legalistic seminar leader Bill Gothard) repeated (sic) stated in his seminars that the origin of rock music was from African voodoo type of music. He usually gave the story of an African witch doctor that was visiting and heard ‘rock music’ and stated that this was the kind of music that the former witch doctor used in his practice of witchcraft and voodoo. He (Gothard) had serial variations of this story that he used in the seminars.” Source: Comment dated June 8, 2015, from “rob war,” in response to “The Phony Consequences of Rock Music,” RecoveringGrace.org, Nov. 14, 2011.
  5. 1 Timothy 3:6.

March 7–9: Meet Me at Fort Worth’s Great Homeschool Convention

At this event, I’ll help with the Realm Makers Bookstore and represent Lorehaven Magazine.
| Feb 20, 2019 | 4 comments |

Next month, I’m headed to Fort Worth, Texas, for the Great Homeschool Convention.

Specifically, I’ll help with the Realm Makers Bookstore‘s booth at this big event.

Great Homeschool Convention lasts from Thursday, March 7, through Saturday, March 9, at the Fort Worth Convention Center.

Headlining this event are several big names, including:

  • Douglas Gresham, the world’s top Chronicles of Narnia fan, who is also stepson to C. S. Lewis;
  • Singer-songwriter/fantasy author Andrew Peterson;
  • “Read-Aloud Revival” podcaster Sarah MacKenzie.

The Realm Makers Bookstore showcases the best in Christian-crafted fantasy, sci-fi, and other fantastical novels.

Lorehaven Magazine, winter 2018In Fort Worth, the booth will also offer print copies of Lorehaven Magazine.

You can also meet novelist Gillian Bronte Adams, who will sign copies of her Songkeeper Chronicles series. For the magazine, we reviewed book 1, Orphan’s Song, and our reviewer loved it.1

Look for Realm Makers Bookstore in booth spaces 906–908!

  1. Orphan’s Song is “a classic medieval fantasy setting populated with archetypes that somehow feel fresh and vigorous.” See Lorehaven‘s debut issue (open for non-subscribers) to read the full review.

‘Ranger Bill’: A Cynical Memory, Defeated

“Oh, great, just another example of Christians making such painfully cheesy stuff”? Shut up, brain.
| Feb 19, 2019 | 4 comments |

Last week I experienced an painful and random memory: that of a Christian-made children’s radio program called “Ranger Bill.”

It must have been in the early 1990s that I listened to this. Probably on a Christian FM radio station. In or near Ashland, Kentucky. On a Saturday morning when the station was doing its best to provide an Alternative for Saturday morning cartoons.

The year was ~1993, but the program sounded like a radio drama from seventy years earlier.1

Transcribed from my mental MP3:

(thunder crash)

TIN-CANNED ANNOUNCER:

“Raaaannnn-gerrr Bill!
Warrior of the woodland!”

(secondary thunder crash)

This intro was followed by a secondary announcer. He described how Ranger Bill fulfills his ranger duties. He battles against extreme odds and traveling dangerous trails. Where? In the air. On horseback. Or in a screaming squad car. Each cited feature was accompanied by beneficial sound effects.

And why, you ask, does Ranger Bill do all these feats? All for the satisfaction and pride of a job well done.

(a series of notes is squirted from
the most comical organ imaginable)

I didn’t remember the plots. I only recall over-acting, over-seriousness, and a Comical Old Geezer Character.

If I don’t remember much, then why did I find this memory painful? Because it came with a cynical thought. Something like this:

“Oh, great. Here’s another example of Christians making such painfully cheesy stuff. This old-tyme radio drama didn’t help anyone. It didn’t get anyone Saved. It likely did little to advance the Kingdom of Jesus Christ with artistic, creative excellence.”

I’m glad to report that, almost instantly, my mind turned on itself. I had a better series of thoughts like this:

  • Horseradish.
  • You have no idea of their budget or creative limits.
  • You don’t even know what the original audience would have expected.
  • You’re falsely judging other people (presumably Christian sisters and brothers).
  • This was a different era. Even a “retro” audio drama may have met its own creative standard.
  • Technically, you were barely in the intended audience then. You’re definitely not in the audience now.
  • Christians have made many fantastic audio dramas. Years later, they hold up very well. For example, see, Josiah DeGraaf’s retrospective on the long-running series Adventures in Odyssey.
  • So stop. Being. So. Silly.

Sure, Christians have done silly things. Some have even done worse things. And it’s okay to point out problems, or even to criticize.

But if we remember these old things, let’s not cringe or act like the Cool Kids will shun us.

As if we’re the stereotypical teenager who’s embarrassed to be seen with her parents at the mall.

As if we’re kids from a 1990s TV commercial, who hawk some breakfast cereal while Parents Just Don’t Get It.

Plot twist: sometimes our cringing cynicism about the Christian cultural Thing is what’s really immature, not the Thing itself.

So even in these little, random-memory ways, let’s show charity to other Christians (including older generations!). Let’s appreciate their attempts as products of their time, and/or our times. Let’s put away childish cynicism, and grow up.

  1. Wikipedia informs us that Moody Bible Institute actually made the “Ranger Bill” program in the 1950s. Even then, it sounded like it could have been a series from thirty twenty years before. (Note: Footnote amended per the opinion of a friend with more radio-drama savvy than I.)

Should Christian Abuse Victims Automatically ‘Forgive’ Offenders?

Must Christians forgive unrepentant sexual abusers? No, and to claim otherwise demeans God’s justice.
| Feb 18, 2019 | 1 comment |

What stories do God’s people accidentally believe about the responsibilities of Christian abuse victims?

Unfortunately, many of these often-unspoken “stories” are based on false assumptions and and false doctrines.

Under false assumptions, we might list, “Sexual/power abuse isn’t a problem in (non-Catholic) churches.”

Under false doctrines, we might list, “Christian abuse victims ought automatically to ‘forgive’ their offenders.”

Either of these wounds Christ’s people and makes Christian abuse victims suffer all over again.

The false assumption is, at best, naive. But when Christian leaders utter that false teaching, they—despite any good intentions—make a mockery of God’s justice.

Even if the offenders have not repented and will not repent.

Even if it means the offenders will go on to abuse others.

And yes, even if it means the church covers up the offense and will not follow civil law.

False ‘forgiveness’

Of course, Christians have spent much blog-ink about the Houston Chronicle series about the latest such rash of abuses, cover-ups, and ignorance. Christian leaders have come forward and (rightfully) indicated their previous naivete, and failures, about this problem. Others talk about the challenges of particular church organizations, or the possible need to share more news about sex offenders who attempt “ministry.”

But when I read the first article, its repetition of the term “forgive” kept leaping out to me.

In all, since 1998, roughly 380 Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers have faced allegations of sexual misconduct, the newspapers found. That includes those who were convicted, credibly accused and successfully sued, and those who confessed or resigned. More of them worked in Texas than in any other state.1

They left behind more than 700 victims, many of them shunned by their churches, left to themselves to rebuild their lives. Some were urged to forgive their abusers or to get abortions.2

[Abuse victim David] Pittman won’t soon forgive those who have offered prayers but taken no action. He only recently stopped hating God.3

When [abuse victim Debbie] Vasquez became pregnant, she said, leaders of her church forced her to stand in front of the congregation and ask for forgiveness without saying who had fathered the child.4

“Forgiveness is up to you alone,” general counsel Derek Gaubatz wrote in one 2007 email. “It involves a decision by you to forgive the other person of the wrongs done to you, just as Christ has forgiven you.”5

Christians can’t put sexual abuse in the same moral category as, say, a dispute between marriage partners over who keeps failing to take out the trash. Such a phrase as “just forgive him,” even with gospel repetition, is unacceptably naive.
 
In fact, Christians who repeat such slogans may actually prevent the possibility of real repentance and forgiveness.
 
Real, biblical forgiveness is like non-abusive sexual intercourse. Even secular law affirms the morality of requiring two people to consent to sex. So it requires two people to consent to forgiveness. That means, in a situation of abuse, the offender must repent. And real repentance means the offender must face civil and other consequences for this evil.

Christians must be careful how we define ‘forgiveness.’6

Here I must be very careful. I’ll also acknowledge that early feedback to this article included hearty disagreement with this concept. I’ll choose to proceed this way.

When Christian A accuses Christian B of abuse, others often give two responses.

Response One (Vengeance) says, “What an evil person. Never forgive him.” Some Christians may imply that the accused is outside God’s grace, or will go to Hell. (Pagans—or Christians who behave like pagans—do even worse then they gather and say things like, “Let’s ruin the accused person’s career and send him death threats over Twitter.”)

Response Two (Cheap Grace) says, “You need to forgive him immediately. Then you act like the sin never happened. This is because ‘love keeps no record of wrongs,’ and also, ‘Jesus said to forgive anyone seventy times seven.’ To do otherwise denies grace.”

I suggest that both these responses show extreme notions of cheap condemnation or cheap grace. Both responses also fail to capture the complexity of the biblical picture.

This fact also further complicate the picture: Christians often use the word “forgiveness” as a shorthand to describe several biblical concepts. These include the concepts of:

  1. Fighting the urge to become bitter or resentful;
  2. Fighting the urge to slander and take revenge on the offender;
  3. Reflecting that God in his grace has saved us from the chiefmost offense of prideful idolatry against him;
  4. Overlooking the offense of a brother, which means someone (perhaps a family member) in otherwise good relationship with us, who has a besetting sin that he’s already fighting
  5. Leaving the offense to God (Romans 12:19) and trusting him to avenge the wrong.

Here is a hard yet biblical saying: If victims of sinful abuse don’t want anything to do with these biblical ideas, then they’re in the wrong. They must consider “forgiving” this abuse, and healing to a point of wanting to offer this forgiveness. There is no room for the Christian to harbor resentment and choose the way of vengeance, either against an abusive nonbeliever or a believer who falls into abusiveness.7

Therefore, insisting “I’ll never forgive him” is not an option for the Christian. People who have stated this may fall to the Dark Side very quickly. According to Jesus, they imperil their own claim to live in light of God’s forgiveness of them (Matt. 6: 14–15).

Real forgiveness requires repentance—as God requires from us.

Recommended in case you have ever needed to ask or give forgiveness.

However, I do not believe that Christians should use the word “forgiveness” to refer to this biblical choice of rejecting vengeance and only wanting to forgive offenders. I don’t say this only because the word “forgive” has been used so often, along with “… and forget,” to silence victims and make them feel terrible for being wounded. I say this because biblically, the word forgiveness describes, as Chris Brauns says:

a commitment by the offended to pardon graciously the repentant from moral liability and to be reconciled to that person, although not all consequences are necessarily eliminated.8

Among Christians, this real forgiveness is always a mutual arrangement between offender and victim. And it will always leads to actual reconciliation, if not in the present day, then in the future after Jesus returns to make all things new.

Scripture, however, never calls us to “forgive” a person who has not repented.

This does not contradict Christ’s insistence that we forgive our brothers “seventy-seven times,” that is, offering unlimited forgiveness. (Most recall Christ’s words from Matt. 18: 21–22, but see the parallel text in Luke 17: 3–4, in which it’s clear Jesus is talking about situations in which the offending brother is first offering repentance.)

Nor does this contradict the Bible’s assurance—which many Christians believe—that any Christian is eternally secure. God’s word assures us that “no one can snatch” someone out of Christ’s hand (John 10: 28–29). Yes, that’s true, and yet we cannot ignore biblical warnings such as “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning” (1 John 3: 8–9). The Bible also teaches that real faith will inevitably show the fruit of good works (Eph. 2: 8–10), and that people who have “tasted the heavenly gift” can fall away (Hebrews 6: 4–8). Such warnings are part of the way God corrects and preserves his people, and cheap grace would get in the way of that.

In fact, this is affirmed by the very biblical teaching that God himself does not forgive people who do not repent. Hell is not full of forgiven people who simply refused to repent after God forgave them. (The very fact that Jesus said the Father will not forgive people who don’t forgive [Matt. 6: 14–15] shows that God does not forgive everyone—and that no Christian is outside God’s warnings about holiness.)

This is also affirmed by biblical teachings that reflect human frustration with power-abusers who get away with it. See the imprecatory Psalms, or Revelation 6:10:

They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”9

We can’t forgive unrepentant abusers; instead, we ‘leave it to the wrath of God.’

Yes, Scripture calls on us to be willing to forgive and to love our enemies. But loving enemies does not mean we gloss over their pattern of offenses against others, or even ourselves. By God’s standards (and often by the civil-law standards of our own regions, which I haven’t even touched on in this piece) we must confront the behavior. And if the person does not repent, we cannot (yet) properly forgive him.

Every time I contend for this view, someone presumes I’m automatically excusing grudges or bitterness, or justifying the person who abuses this truth to withhold a willingness to forgive an enemy. Not so. I’m simply saying we ought to use words properly, as God does.

And God has given us a great phrase to use for what we mean by “letting go of the offense.”

Instead of the word forgiveness (which, again, means an exchange between two willing parties), Paul says leave it. But finish the apostle Paul’s sentence: “Leave it to the wrath of God” (Romans 12:19). He does not say this is merely a feeling, or even a personal choice. He says this is based on the entirely practical truth that we trust God as the avenger. If your enemy is a Christian who refused to repent, God will discipline him. If your enemy turns out to have been a fake Christian, God will avenge the wrong and punish this enemy for eternity.

"Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord" (Romans 12:19, KJV).

“Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Romans 12:19, KJV).

If I’ve been abused, I ought to want to forgive the abuser as soon as possible. But this is not simply a case of offense between brothers, spouses, or church members. Instead, this is a case of egregious sin, when one professing Christian for years has shown a pattern of acting more like the devil than like a true follower of Jesus.

At the very least, such a person needs to demonstrate true willingness to repent, which will require facing consequences (including potential loss of leadership positions and careers).10 The rewards, however, will be great indeed. He will have received real forgiveness (all the better if it’s nearly instant) from the persons he has wronged. That pattern of sin will no longer interfere with his relationship with God and claim to faith.

In any case, victims of abuse, and those who love them, must cling to the gospel, in which Jesus forgives people who repent. Don’t let people imply you must be more spiritual than God. But pray hard and train hard so you can forgive the offender as soon as possible. Meanwhile, try to leave it—the offense—to God, and find healing not through fake “forgiveness” but because you know the chief Avenger.

  1. Robert Downen, Lise Olsen, and John Tedesco. “Abuse of Faith: 20 years, 700 victims: Southern Baptist sexual abuse spreads as leaders resist reforms,” The Houston Chronicle, Feb. 10, 2019.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. This article’s remainder is echoed from the section “Reconsider whether victims must forgive the accused” from my article “Twelve Responses to Abuse Accusations in Christian Conferences, part 1,” Speculative Faith, Sept. 21, 2018.
  7. Remember that many of our most famous fantastical stories intentionally warn us against the dangers of vengeance, which will inevitably lead us to the Dark Side.
  8. Chris Brauns, Unpacking Forgiveness, page 72. For more about biblical forgiveness, and its differences from common “therapeutic” notions of forgiveness, Brauns’s book is an excellent resource. Pastor and author Kevin DeYoung also summarizes this book, with Brauns, in this free article.
  9. Revelation 6:10. Note that these saints are in heaven, unable to sin, and yet they carry a fierce and holy desire for God to avenge their own deaths. No one is insisting these Christians forgive their offenders.
  10. Half-apologies, or apologies for single offenses when the abuser has actually committed a pattern of grooming and other nasty actions, don’t count. Crucial here is the role of the local church to whom the offender ought to be held accountable. Of course, many churches have no idea how to handle this, and some have enabled abusive leaders. But all this is even messier without churches.

Little, Peddling Magicians Can Awaken Satanic Tyranny

Uncle Andrew believes his “destiny” frees him from “all rules,” just like many of today’s political leaders.
| Feb 15, 2019 | No comments |

Recently a newbie political leader’s words reminded me of C. S. Lewis’s most famous wicked magicians.

I’ll try to stay apolitical here. Going forward, we can presume the usual disclaimers. Such as, “leaders on every side do this.” And, “Although this is one example, at least she’s being honest. Other leaders think exactly like this, but deceptively keep this ‘standard’ to themselves.”

Which wicked choice is least terrible? Brazenly promote hypocrisy? Or pretend to be consistent and at least reinforce that social standard?

Here’s the quote:

I think that there’s a lot of people more concerned about being precisely, factually and semantically correct then about being morally right. 1

When I heard this again,2 of the left, openly embraced. And in this case, openly advocated by the single most celebrated, newly elected member of the government who is representing that Democratic Left.] I immediately thought of Lewis’s sixth Narnia chronicle, the prequel The Magician’s Nephew. In this story, a villain remarks:

“How should you understand reasons of State? You must learn, child, that what would be wrong for you or for any of the common people is not wrong in a great Queen such as I. The weight of the world is on our shoulders. We must be freed from all rules. Ours is a high and lonely destiny.”3

Of course, these are the words of Jadis. Later she’s known more popularly as the White Witch. But here this tyrant explains why she had the right to learn a dark spell and destroy her whole world, including all its people.

But I actually would not compare today’s flippant political figures with Jadis.

Not to be too nasty, but such comparisons give the political figures too much credit.

Uncle Andrew’s peddling magic

Instead I would compare some of these leaders with another Magician’s Nephew villain: young hero Digory Kirke’s meddling magician uncle, Andrew. Three chapters earlier, he utters much the same excuse as Jadis:

“Men like me, who possess hidden wisdom, are freed from common rules just as we are cut off from common pleasures. Ours, my boy, is a high and lonely destiny.”4

What’s the difference between them?

Jadis, ancient queen of a land she destroyed, is a dark and spiritual threat. Her influence is more Satanic than human. Indeed, as we learn in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, she herself hasn’t got any human blood in her. She also is completely serious. Jadis moves with a weight befitting her corrupted royalty. Hers is same kind of dark-matter, spiritual weight that, as G. K. Chesterton said, compelled Satan to fall “through force of gravity.”5

Uncle Andrew, however, is still somewhat human. At first, Lewis as narrator compared his arrival “like a stage-play demon coming out of a trap door.” Andrew does remain a heavy threat through the first few chapters. But when Jadis is magicked into London, Andrew suddenly appears “like a shrimp” compared with her. She grabs him, stares into his face searching for a spiritual “mark,” and declares:

“I see . . . you are a Magician—of a sort. . . .

“How did you come to know Magic? You are not of royal blood, I’ll swear. . . .

“Peace. . . . I see what you are. You are a little, peddling Magician who works by rules and books. There is no real Magic in your blood and heart.”6

Later, Lewis doesn’t keep narrative distance from Andrew as he does with Jadis. Instead, we go into a closet with Andrew. There he drinks from his stashed-away bottle of brandy and stupidly persuades himself that this evil queen from another world actually fancies him. As Jadis rampages in London and Andrew’s foolishness is further exposed, he becomes not as much an evil figure as a stupid and tragic one.

Andrew’s folly compounds as we follow him. Even in “the land of youth”—the newly created realm of Narnia—the “little, peddling Magician” ignores the good magic all around him. (It’s magic from Narnia’s creator, Aslan, that Jadis understands and hates.) Eventually, he ends up surrounded by talking beasts—whom he’s convinced aren’t talking. For their part, they can’t decide if he’s plant or animal. In their view, he certainly can’t be a human. Finally they become convinced he’s an animal. With good intentions, they stow him within a rudimentary cage and pelt him with all their favorite foods.

Having behaved inhumanly, Andrew is (temporarily) stripped of his humanity. (He’s very similar to Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4.)

Uncle Andrew’s materialist magic

Elsewhere I’ve argued that in fact, Andrew likely represents the “materialist magician.” Lewis referred to this type of person in The Screwtape Letters. In the demon Screwtape’s words, the “materialist magician” blends the best of both wicked worlds. He combines the barren atheism of materialism and the mystical corruption of magician.

Don’t these two false religions conflict? Not for the materialist magician. He or she dabbles in both corruptions at once, “not using, but veritably worshipping what he vaguely calls ‘Forces’ while denying the existence of ‘spirits’ . . .”7

Still, the story doesn’t leave Uncle Andrew in his pathetic state. His nephew Digory and Digory’s friend, Polly, both show him pity. So does Aslan, who gives Andrew, “this old sinner,” the only gift left to him: sleep, with its temporary separation “from all the torments you have devised for yourself.”8

Uncle Andrew’s redemption from magic

I put most foolish political leaders, with their self-made hypocrisies in this category. They’re not often so much like Jadis. Often they’re more like Uncle Andrew. They are “little, peddling Magicians.” They dabble in strange notions and insipid, feelings-based “morality.” Sometimes they do this just because they can. Other times they’re chasing that power rush and image of greatness, which leads them not into flourishing humanity, but into the irrationality and impulses of non-talking beasts.

Thank God, this does not leave the meddling magician without hope.

By The Magician’s Nephew’s finale, Uncle Andrew has not quite been redeemed. But he has at least been re-humanized:

Uncle Andrew never tried magic again as long as he lived. He had learned his lesson, and in his old age he became a nicer and less selfish old man than he had ever been before.9

For my part, I’m happy with this quasi-redemption of the old sinner. But does that mean we need not react to such persons as a serious threat? Not at all. After all, it required supernatural intervention—from a perfectly wise Savior-figure—to make Uncle Andrew “learn his lesson.” Even then, as Aslan says, “evil will come from that evil.”10 Even a foolish, meddling magician, in his or her idiocy, can bring a Satanic tyrant into our world.

  1. Aaron Blake, “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s very bad defense of her falsehoods,” The Washington Post, Jan. 7, 2019.
  2. Albert Mohler in his Feb. 14 podcast of “The Briefing” remarks, “Wait just a minute. That’s astounding. Here you have a newly elected member of Congress saying, ‘When I make my arguments, I’m going to say whatever facts I want because I’m morally right. I can use whatever arguments are convenient because I’m right, morally.’ . . . That kind of logic can be found to be sure in some form on the right and the left somewhere in the politics of the world. But it increasingly is becoming a principal [sic
  3. Lewis, C. S. The Magician’s Nephew (pages 67–68). New York: HarperCollins Publishers.
  4. Ibid, page 21.
  5. G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy.
  6. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew, pages 77–78.
  7. C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters.
  8. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew, page 185.
  9. Ibid, page 202.
  10. In the story, Digory is chiefly responsible because he surrendered to temptation and awakened the Witch. But his Uncle Andrew also had his part bringing in this evil to London and then Narnia.

‘The Screwtape Letters’ Quotes about Christian Social Activism

“If we can keep men asking … ‘Is this the way that History is going?’ they will neglect the relevant questions.”
| Feb 14, 2019 | No comments |

Pretty much all of C. S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters is ridiculously quotable.

Yet these Screwtape Letters quotes uniquely apply to Christians who want to do good works in the world.

As usual, with long-paragraph book quotes, I’ve occasionally added extra paragraph breaks.

The Screwtape Letters

Do what you will, there is going to be some benevolence, as well as some malice, in your patient’s soul. The great thing is to direct the malice to his immediate neighbours whom he meets every day and to thrust his benevolence out to the remote circumference, to people he does not know. The malice thus becomes wholly real and the benevolence largely imaginary.

The Screwtape Letters

The Enemy [God] loves platitudes. Of a proposed course of action He wants men, so far as I can see, to ask very simple questions; is it righteous? is it prudent? is it possible?

Now if we can keep men asking ‘Is it in accordance with the general movement of our time? Is it progressive or reactionary? Is this the way that History is going?’ they will neglect the relevant questions. . . .

As a result, while their minds are buzzing in this vacuum, we have the better chance to slip in and bend them to the action we have decided on.

The Screwtape Letters

We direct the fashionable outcry of each generation against those vices of which it is in the least danger, and fix its approval on the virtue that is nearest the vice which we are trying to make endemic.

The game is to have them all running around with fire extinguishers whenever there’s a flood; and all crowding to that side of the boat which is already gunwale under.

If I find more Screwtape Letters quotes about Christian social action, I’ll add them.

The Bible’s Most Boring Chapter?

All Scripture is God-breathed, yet Numbers 7 is still one of the most aesthetically dull parts of the Bible.
| Feb 13, 2019 | No comments |

Leviticus gets a bad rap as Scripture’s most boring book, especially when the Bible’s most boring chapter of all time arrives just one book later.

You see, Leviticus, for all its seeming aesthetic faults, is at least delightfully weird (on first reading). It has blood, guts, bloody guts, and lots of sacrificing and sex. Leviticus also offers pleasant variety and organization at the same time. It follows a symmetrical pattern about rituals, sacrifices, and priests, with Day of Atonement details in the center (chapters 16 through 17).1 If you tire of priestly ordainment policy, just wait for the next chapter for plenty of intriguing sex laws.

After Leviticus comes Numbers. Somehow I had recalled that Numbers is like a lower-budget sequel to Exodus. It offers a few more miracles, social tensions, and rebellions. It even has an outbreak of blankety-blank snakes on a blankety-blank desert plain.

Well, Numbers has those things. First you must get through a lot of seemingly random legal and historical addenda. This includes Numbers chapter 7. Which offers a fastidious account of who gave what for the first Tabernacle.

This was the template for seven the chapter of Numbers:

On the [ordinal number] day [X] the son of [Y], the chief of the people of [Z]: his offering was one silver plate whose weight was 130 shekels, one silver basin of 70 shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering; one golden dish of 10 shekels, full of incense; one bull from the herd, one ram, one male lamb a year old, for a burnt offering; one male goat for a sin offering; and for the sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five male lambs a year old. This was the offering of [X] the son of [Y].

Repeat 12x. Really.

And people claim that modern praise-and-worship choruses are repetitive.

Seriously, I understand why Scripture offers these details—even repeated, over and over, in an age when scribe time and resources were strictly limited. God is still establishing his chosen people, Israel, as a nation. All these minutiae, no matter how trifling, will matter to their descendants. Especially when it comes to facts like which tribe gave what for the Tabernacle. Best I can tell here, every tribe gave the exact same resources. Which, on first reading, indicates two very important truths:

  • Every detail about the formation of the Tabernacle, God’s dwelling place on Earth, matters a great deal.
  • No tribe descendant of the future could claim some special spirituality; every tribe gave the same stuff.

The ESV Study Bible notes:

The exact repetition of the donations of each tribe underlines that all the tribes were equally committed to supporting the tabernacle. It is also noteworthy that, as in chs. 1–4, the tribe of Judah takes the lead (see notes on 1:26–27; 2:1–34).

Still, even in the book of Leviticus, I’ve not yet found an aesthetically duller portion of Scripture. Maybe next time, I shan’t try to read it aloud.

  1. My wife and I are following The Bible Project app and reading plan through the whole Bible in a year. Their animated intros to biblical books and themes are top-notch. We found the Leviticus intro video very helpful to getting you almost psyched for the book.

Christian Movies Will Get Better When Audiences Seriously Demand Them

Today’s audiences are fine with cheesy Christian movies. That will change.
| Feb 12, 2019 | 5 comments |

Last month I asked, Do Christian Creators Know When Their Movies Are Bad? Author and screenwriter Sean Paul Murphy answered. In short, his answer seems to be, “Usually.”

But Murphy raised a lot more questions and answers, for which my original article didn’t have space.1

You should read Murphy’s insider’s view. Read it especially if you’ve been one of those snarky Christians. You know who you are—the kind of person who thinks or speaks as if all those cheesy Christian movie-makers are doing it on purpose. Or the kind of person who thinks or speaks as if things will get better if cheesy Christian movie-makers just start making better movies.

I say ‘amen’ to Murphy’s insider view.

Murphy touches on several truths that I can get behind without qualification. Among the myths he busts (my paraphrasing):

‘Non-Christian movies are so much better than Christian-made movies’?

Nonsense. You only hear more about great non-Christian-made movies because there are so many of them. That yields more chances for the good ones to get really good and/or popular.

Numerically, terrible movies by non-Christians outpace Christian-made movies by factors of hundreds.

‘Christians mean to make subpar movies and don’t care about growing’?

Nonsense again. As Murphy repeats, creators like Alex Kendrick and Dallas Jenkins both humbly concede earlier “cheesy” moments. They are very transparent about their earlier not-so-great work. And they directly state they aim to get better.

‘Christian movies would be better if they had higher budgets’?

This is more of an implication I find in some other Christians’ snarky reviews of evangelical-marketed movies. In other words, maybe we just need to allocate several million dollars to use solely for making Christian movies. But as Murphy says:

One thing that always infuriates me is when filmmakers say their movies aren’t good because they didn’t have a big enough budget. Hey, if you chose to tell a story that you didn’t have the money to adequately tell, it’s not a budget problem. It is an error in judgement by the producer. Period! I didn’t hear the directors of The Blair Witch Project crying about their budget. I didn’t hear Kevin Smith crying about the budget of Clerks. Or Jim Jarmusch about Stranger Than Paradise. Or Whit Stillman about Metropolitan. Or Robert Rodriguez about El Mariachi. One of my favorite sci-fi films is Primer. Shooting budget: $7,000. Those filmmakers made up for their lack of budget with talent and imagination. I don’t think it’s too much to ask Christian filmmakers to do the same.2

Does quality matter in Christian films?

Murphy suggests I ignored this question in my original article. That’s true of this particular article. However, I have explored the quality question in other articles:

Click for the complete series.

That last series is so far my “magnum opus” on this topic. But I wrote it to challenge not just Christian movie critics but their fans, all at once. That’s because, apparently like Murphy, I don’t primarily blame the filmmakers or producers for making cheesy movies.

We must be more charitable than that, while also recognizing pure capitalistic fact.

Producers and directors wouldn’t make the cheesy movies if Christian audiences did not really want them.

Read Murphy’s insider view. I’d venture he shares the frustrations of many Christian creatives who are restricted by plain market forces:

The main reason why there are so many bad Christian films is because the core audience doesn’t demand quality filmmaking. Only a reassuring message. If we want good movies, we have to stop supporting the bad ones, regardless of how well-meaning they are. It’s that simple. Really. The future of Christian films is in your hands, dear viewer!3

Problem: Christians who hate-watch Christian movies aren’t helping much.

Unfortunately, some Christians who are most likely to demand better movies are giving up too early.

Many of these potential viewers are younger Christians. They are more savvy with popular culture. Some write off the whole concept of “Christians making movies with overt Christian themes.” Within this group, some critics seem to assume a notion similar to evangelical cheesy-movie defenders: that the chief purpose of Christian-made movies is to “minister” to people. They only disagree on how the movies ought to do this, or what kind of people the movies ought to reach. They neglect one plain reality: that the Church does need its own “subcultures,” including movies.4

Honestly, some other Christian movie critics take the same stereotypical attitude of an older Christian. This is the kind of person who would forbid his children from seeing secular PG-13 movies “because actors say too many bad words.” Christian movie critics apply this same “sin counting” approach to Christian movies. In effect they claim, “No, you can’t support those, because they have too many cheesy moments.”

Once upon a time, most of the big movies were made by Big Hollywood. Evangelicals would see them sometimes, but usually condemn everything wrong with Big Hollywood.

And the evangelicals would not actually try to make any of the big movies themselves.

Today, some of the (relatively) big movies are made by Christians. Other Christians see them sometimes, but usually condemn everything wrong with the Christian movie-makers.

And most Christian movie critics do not actually try to make the big movies themselves.

So—are critics incidentally turning into little but a complaining counter-culture? Are they vulnerable to the charge of, “I like my way of doing it better than your way of not doing it”?5

Solution: instead, teach other Christian movie viewers to demand more.

Well, from what I read here, I like Sean Paul Murphy’s way of doing it.

I like some of directors Alex Kendrick’s and Dallas Jenkins’s way of doing it. And I suspect that I’ll like their way even better in the future.

Until that time, I’ll keep giving these directors second (third, fourth, fifth …) chances.

I’ll keep supporting “Christian movies” as a concept.

And I’ll try to avoid being so silly as to suggest anything like this: that Christian movie-makers ought to make their own jobs even harder, by making movies that the majority of their evangelical audiences simply don’t want. At least, don’t want yet.

Instead, my solution: get out there, and winsomely show my Christian friends why they should modify their Christian-movie wish list.

Then the market will slowly shift. Then emboldened creatives will step up their game. Producers will support them. Audiences will reward them. That will encourage other creatives, directors, producers—and the cycle will just keep going.

It’s already happened with the superhero genres.

But the changes don’t start with the story creators. These changes must start with the fans.

  1. I would describe my view on Christian movies as pessimistically optimistic. This is reflected in my other recent article, Christian Movies Started Terrible, But Can Improve Like Any Other Genre.
  2. Sean Paul Murphy, “Do Christian Creators Know When Their Movies Are Bad?” (same title as my article), SeanPaulMurphyVille.Blogspot.com, Feb. 1, 2019.
  3. Ibid.
  4. I summarize this point in Seven More Challenges For Christian Movie Critics and Fans (Speculative Faith, Sept. 10, 2015). It’s actually somewhat naive to presume that independent creative Christians can simply skip over our thriving Christian/church subcultures and “make a difference” in secular creative fields. This goes double if the creative seems to believe the chief purpose of story-making is “evangelism,” rather than “glorify God in all that you do.”
  5. Seven Final Challenges For Christian Movie Critics and Fans, Speculative Faith, Sept. 17, 2015.

In Which A Snack Cakes Twitter Feed Shames the Folly of Fandom War

@LittleDebbie wisdom: “People act as if they have to hate one thing in order to remain loyal to the other.”
| Feb 11, 2019 | No comments |

Somebody tried to start another fandom war on Twitter. And, no joke, the account for @LittleDebbie responded with the wisdom of a sage.

This question comes from DC writer Gail Simone, who asked:

Apparently Simone did this with several brand-name accounts, such as the famous @Wendys account.

But as the account of a must-not-be-named restaurant chain later suggested, “You might be little, Debbie, but you’re wise beyond your years.”

(I’d award double points solely for the classy use of the semicolon.)

Marvel vs. DC, Star Wars vs. Star Trek—sure, it’s fun to fake “pit” these story franchises in fictional fights.

But as (believe it or not) the seller of starchy snacks further added: